I have wanted to be a sponsor for some time now, it was hard to be patient but I knew I needed to wait for someone to hit their bottom and be willing to work the steps. I finally had someone reach out to me a month ago. I’ll keep him and any of the story pertaining to him completely anonymous and out of this story. That’s his story to tell, not mine. For now, this is about my side of the experience. What is it like to be a sponsor and what did I learn in my first meeting? It surprised me!
The first thing I discovered is that I was incredibly nervous and anxious leading up to our first meeting. In fact, I’d put it at a heightened emotional level of a pre-trigger event (most likely due to strong feelings of fear caused by my nervousness). I was actually surprised by this. That may very well be just me though and I would expect each person’s first experience to vary in this regard. I let my wife know that I was nervous and anxious and was taking extra precautions to serve others, be diligent in my personal study, and that I would be fine. I just wanted to check in with someone and this was a good thing to check in with my wife on.
We met at my church where I can easily grab a classroom for privacy and not worry about intrusions from my family or others. It also gave us a calm place to speak about private matters without worrying others might overhear. We started with a simple prayer to ask God to be with us, to help him be open to this new experience, and to help me know how to best guide him through his 12 step process.
I then read through the Step 1 instructions that my sponsor shared with me (Step 1 PDF Download). If you want to look these up, they reference the AA Big book hard copy. The roman numerals have two sets of numbers, the first matches the small print AA book and the second matches the large print AA book. The regular numbers are the same in both books.
What I felt as I read through these passages with my sponsee was very interesting to me. There are 8 parts to this introduction and I thought I would go ahead and share my thoughts and feelings with you as a first time sponsor and somewhat recent graduate of my own 12 step program:
- First we say a prayer to help the individual set aside any preconceived notions they may have about recovery, about a 12 step program, and about God. I remember being so, so ready to be free of my addiction when I was a brand new sponsee. I was so tired of feeling like a failure, a loser, a horrible husband, a horrible person, and weak. I was tired of hurting my wife. I was tired of doing something I so desperately did not want to do any longer. I was truly willing to do anything. I was willing to see God in a new way even though I felt I had known Him for years. I was completely open to a new experience.
- The first paragraph read is the one stating that addiction is an “allergy” to the substance you’re addicted to. A whole flood of emotions came back when I read that one again. I remember the first time I read it I just sat there with the book in my hands with my mouth open. My addiction was an allergy? I have an illness and not a lack of self control or a lack of desire or that I’m inherently evil? That was like a ton of bricks lifted from my shoulders and reading it with my sponsee I felt it all over again. I remember thinking when it was me almost a year ago, “Maybe this time will be different — because I’m approaching it all in a new way.”
- This part talks about complete abstinence being the only option. No physical stimulation, no visual stimulation, no mental stimulation. Which of course begs the question, “but what if you’re married?” I’ll dedicate a whole blog entry to this topic later (I’ll update this post when I do with a direct link). You’ll be fascinated to learn what I’ve found on this topic. A little teaser is the statement, “Sex is not a need.” (Say that out loud in a room full of sex addicts if you want to see people squirm and recoil like snakes! I have and it’s hysterical!!) And yes, I still enjoy sex with my wife, so don’t panic. I just don’t have to have it all the time anymore. We do change.
- There is a sentence in this paragraph that says, “They sound like the philosophy of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on the head with a hammer so that he can’t feel the ache. If you draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention of an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or become irritated and refuse to talk.” (AA Big Book, Page 23) I distinctly remember physically laughing out loud when I read that with my sponsor. I did exactly what the book said. I tried to laugh it off. Not because I didn’t believe the book, but because I was an addict. “I wanted a solution, what’s the problem here?!” Yep, hammer meet head. Later on I even wrote in the margin the following: “An addict will always have an excuse. Remember: An addict is dishonest and selfish. He is dishonest with himself and no longer sees the lies.”
- This one sentence still hits me right between the eyes: “They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by [acting out].” Oh man do I remember those days. Being irritable when I wasn’t acting out. Being irritable because my wife didn’t want to have sex with me, didn’t she realize I “HAD NEEDS?!” (see my comment on #3 above). Boy do I not miss those days. At all. I am so thankful that I no longer am an addict in the middle of their addiction, struggling to fight against what I knew was right, but always giving in and not knowing how to stop. Thank goodness there was a better way. Thank goodness God helped me find it and He helped me achieve my recovery and to find peace and freedom in my sobriety! And now I was getting the opportunity to help someone else find that exact same peace — I cannot express just how wonderful that feels!!
I could go on explaining the impact of each point in this first step set of instructions and my feelings in reaction to them, but I just wanted to give you a bit of a view into what it was like to meet with my first sponsee. In a word, it was incredible! It was exciting to be able to see someone on the path to receive the gift of freedom that I had received! It was wonderful to know that it wasn’t up to me to help them find it — it was up to God and I trusted God to help him. I was filled with gratitude beyond belief. I still am as I write this. I just don’t know how to thank God enough for what an incredible gift He has given me and He has given my family. All I can do is my try best in sharing it with others and that will be good enough.
I pray with all of my heart that if you’re even slightly curious about trying out a 12 step SAAPP program or LDS Addiction Recovery Program, that you’ll just give it a shot. If you’re tired of failing, if you’re tired of feeling depressed and full of self-loathing, if you’re tired of hurting your loved ones, please, please, please be brave and give it a try. You will find a welcome place with fellow brothers or sisters who have walked in your steps and will gladly help you find your place of freedom amongst them.
And to those of you who have been through or are almost done with your own 12 step program, please remember that it is through sharing this message with others that we keep our sobriety! It is the gift that keeps on giving, to others, to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to God.
You can do it!
My name is Mike